22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. ~ Jude 22-23
Today, we return to the little epistle of Jude who was the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jude is a twenty-five verse letter which addresses the issue of false teachers inside the church. Jude is a book of warning about those who once seemed to believe the gospel of the Lord Jesus, but who no longer believe. This is a book about apostasy.
Today, we live in a world which is increasingly under the control of Satan himself. And, the devil's influence has encroached the church through the false teachings of apostates who are islands among themselves. Apostates are insubordinate, rebellious, greedy, materialistic, self-centered, shameless, proud, sensual, and void of the Holy Spirit. The theology of the apostate is not founded in the scriptures. They pretend to honor the Lord Jesus, but they deny Him that honor in reality by denying His definition of their lives.
Jude issues a call to the reality that we must deal with apostasy. And, as we considered in our last blog and podcast, the believer in Christ survives the onslaught of apostasy only by remaining strong in our faith in the Lord. We do this by diligently studying the Scriptures, by being engaged in prayer to the Lord, by keeping ourselves in the love of God, and, by anticipating and expecting the return of the Lord Jesus.
In v.22 of today's passage we read, "Be merciful to those who doubt."
I am so glad the Lord directed Jude to write these words because the people Jude directs our attention to here are people who are saved but not secure. We must be careful to differentiate between those who are struggling to grow in their faith and those who are sabotaging the faith. We all have had our doubts. Doubts are a must if we are to grow in our faith. Doubt is the shadow cast by faith, and when we wrestle with our doubts and the questions our doubts create, we must be careful to go to God for the answers. These of whom Jude writes struggle with the questions that come with growth. We are to be merciful to them as they struggle and help them along, as they grow in their knowledge of the Lord and His ways.
The word "doubt" used here in v.22 means "confused." False teachers always go after people who are weak and vulnerable. They go after those who are not strong in doctrine, prayer, and obedience. Apostates go after those who are not yet convinced of the truth of God's word.
To be merciful means to show kindness and compassion on those who struggle with doubt because our kindness and compassion will make the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus we proclaim, that much more approachable to them. False teachers do not bring that kind of an attraction. In fact, false teachers always appeal to the flesh.
The Lord Jesus is a great example of how we are to operate in these situations. He, on one hand, stood up and denounced the Pharisees. Then, on the heels of that, He ate dinner with the Pharisee. Then, in the very next chapter, He ate lunch with another Pharisee. Like the Lord Jesus, to the struggling, we are to be soft, with the the false teacher, we are to be severe.
In v.23 of today's text we read, "save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh."
Now, we know we can not save anybody. Shoot, we can't even save ourselves! So, when Jude commands us to "save others" he means join God as He saves people. We are just the means by whom God does the saving. He is the cause of salvation, He does the saving. We partner with Him, and, we are the tools He uses.
Now, the implication given here is these who need to be saved are already in the fire of false belief. They are not just confused, they have bought the lie of the false teachers. They have bought the lie that the Lord Jesus is not God. They have bought the lie that salvation is in part by grace and in part by works. They have bought the lie that whatever form of apostate Christianity they are seduced by, and they, they are already being singed by the fires of hell, which will engulf them in the future, if they do not come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The word "snatching" is harpazō in the Greek, meaning "to take by force." This is the same word the Apostle Paul uses to describe the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4. When we meet somebody who is believing false teaching, we do not turn our backs on them, we do not shun them. We go after them in a very serious rescue operation because false teaching stains the soul. And, the way to reach them is by patiently bringing the truth to them. It may take years but we never give up on them unless they themselves become apostate. This is why there must be fear involved.
And, we are to hate even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. Hating, not the person but the influence of the false teaching on the struggling. We must treat the false teaching as if it is filthy underwear, stained by bodily functions. No one would pick up somebody’s filthy, stained underwear. This is why we must separate the false teaching from the person. We must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Having said all of this, we must remember that in order to recognize the false, we, must be well-trained in the truth which sensitizes our souls to the needs of the struggling.